Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to Build a V-Thread

You've just completed a spectacular ice climb. Everything went smoothly the entire way. But now you're three pitches off the deck and you don't want to leave anything behind on your descent. There is a way to do this and it is surprisingly simple.

The V-thread -- also known as the Abalakov anchor -- is a simple technique wherein one simply links two holes bored in the ice together and then threads a cord through, the cord is then tied-off and used as an anchor.

Following is a short video on how to do this with a single ice screw:



It's not a bad idea to back-up an ice anchor before rappelling. This article provides some tips as to how one might back-up a V-thread.

It's a good idea to practice this on the ground before employing it in a descent. Though this is conceptually simple, it can be difficult to line up the bore holes. This is definitely not something that you want to use for the first time in a raging snowstorm as it's starting to get dark.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Climbing Events March and April 2012

02/28 -- Lexington, KY -- University of Kentucky Climbing Comp 


03/02 -- San Fransisco, CA -- Planet Granite Friction Series
 

03/02 -- Carbondale, CO -- Western Slope Bouldering Series 5 970-476-7960
 

03/03 -- Menomonie, WI -- Stout Adventures ROCKFEST!
 

03/03 -- Moscow, ID -- Univ. of Idaho NW Collegiate Climbing Comp. 208-885-6810

3/3 - 3/4 -- El Paso, Texas -- 
Hueco Rock Rodeo


3/3 -- Moscow, ID -- University of Idaho NW Collegiate Climbing Comp. 208-885-6810


3/5 -- Seattle, WA -- Jason Hummel Ski Mountaineering Slide Show


3/6 -- Bellingham, WA --REI Avalanche Awareness Class: Register

03/10 -- Charleston, SC -- Palmetto Pump 


03/24 -- College Station, TX -- Texas Aggie Pumpfest  

03/31 -- Oklahoma City, OK -- Rocktown Climbing Gym USA Climbing Comp

3/30 -- 4/1 -- Red Rock Canyon, NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

03/31 -- Columbus, OH -- Ohio State University Vertical Mile Challenge  


4/12 -- Chongqing, CHN -- IFSC Climbing WC  Live on the internet : Boulder and Speed


4/21 -- Loc Dragomer, SVK -- IFSC Climbing WC Live on the internet: Bouldering


4/27 -- Vienna, AUT -- IFSC Climbing WC Live on the internet: Bouldering



Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

For this edition of Weekend Warrior, we're looking at some of our favorite activities, skiing, ice climbing and rock climbing, but in some interesting locales and venues - some you might not normally think of at first...

This first clip takes a look at the region of Kashmir, an area usually thought of as home to some major Himalayan peaks, like Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum, and K2. Sure there is tons of snow there, so I guess it was only a matter of time before there was skiing, and if you are going to have skiing, you might as well have Heliskiing, right?



This second video was definitely a surprise for me. When I think of ice climbing, I think of places like Ouray, the Canadian Rockies, Scotland, the Alps, and dozens of other places. But I never would have thought about Iran...



Sure there is lots of climbing in Austria and Switzerland, but you're probably thinking of the Alps or the Dolomites, right? Well this clip starts off in that direction, but makes a sharp turn a few minutes in and features some unusual climbing venues.



Have a great weekend!
James

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Alternative Training

As the Alaska Program Coordinator, I get calls from people all the time who are wondering what is the best way they can train for an upcoming expedition.  It may sound cliche, but the best advice I can give is this:

The best way to train for climbing, is to go climbing.

I know, I know - it is a ridiculous statement.  But it's true.  The challenge is, many of our climbers don't have the kind of access to climbing that we do, and they need to come up with alternative ways to train.  One of the hardest but most important thing to simulate before joining us on an expedition, is the experience of pulling a sled.  I've had a lot of people describe their method, but a picture says a thousand words.


This is a picture of a climber who is joining us on Denali this season.  He nicknamed his tire "Tiger," and has to train at night because the only thing available to him is a golf course.  I'm sure the groundskeeper doesn't look too fondly upon snowshoe crampon marks on their greens.  Regardless, we love his dedication, and thank him for sending this photo in!

Do you have any good photos of you training for an expedition or climbing?  We would love to see all you dedicated climbers out there!  Please email them to andrew@alpineinstitute.com, and I'll post them on a future blog to share with our community.

Looking forward to seeing them!

--Andrew Yasso
Program Coordinator & Guide

Monday, February 20, 2012

AAI Seeks Administrative Support Intern

The American Alpine Institute is currently seeking an enthusiastic individual to participate in a 6-month paid internship.

The Administrative Support Intern supports the Program Coordinators by assisting with sales, registrations, client communication, and office recordkeeping. In addition, the intern supports the IT Manager by assisting with development of the company website.

Duties and Hours

This position normally requires between 20 and 30 hours per week. Principle duties are as follows:

• Assist with routine office work, including processing trip registrations, answering phones and responding to emails, and keeping accurate paperwork and database records.

• Gain familiarity with AAI’s program offerings and take growing responsibility for representing these programs accurately and attractively in our marketing collateral, client communications, and phone conversations

• Assist with development of the Institute’s website, including migration of content from old blogs and web pages to new containers.

Compensation

This position is designed to provide the intern with entrance to the professional network of the mountain guiding community and the larger outdoor industry. The principle tangible benefit of this job will be the opportunity to receive recommendations from our director and senior staff and to benefit from their connections. However, in addition, there are three forms of direct compensation:

• An hourly wage commensurate with experience

• Tuition waivers for many of our climbing programs

• Eligibility for pro purchase programs for equipment and clothing

Application

To learn more about this internship, please log onto:

http://www.aai.cc/Employment/

To apply, please log onto:

https://alpineinstitute.wufoo.com/forms/project-internship-application/

If you have any questions whatsoever, please feel free to call me at 360-671-1505 or email me at jason(at)alpineinstitute.com.

Thanks,

Jason D. Martin

Reinhold Messner at the Winter Outdoor Retailer

We often get caught up with the "who's hot" right now type of thing in climbing. And sometimes we forget that there are some old bold climbers out there that are not just still kicking, but are actively talking about climbing and climbing politics today.

Reinhold Messner was the first person to complete ascents of all 14 8,000 meter peaks. He is a prolific speaker and writer. And he was able to make some time to come out to the winter Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City last month.  In a question and answer session, Messner talks about the infamous Compressor Route on Cerro Torre, mountain preservation, wilderness experience, styles of climbing on 8000 meter peaks and the history of modern climbing.  This is an incredibly interesting video that was was produced at the event:



This video was made by through a collaboration of Chris Alstrin (Alstrin Films) and Ari Novak (Oracle Films) and was sponsored by the American Alpine Club.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Climbing Events February & March


February and March The Forest Service in Western Washington is offering Snowshoe Hikes and Cross Country Ski Tours for all ages. Scroll down to  find one in your area and make your arrangements. 


2/17 -- 2/20 -- Cody, WY -- Waterfall Ice Festival

02/25 -- Valhalla, NY -- Feats of Strength - Indoor Bouldering Competition 


02/28 -- Lexington, KY -- University of Kentucky Climbing Comp 

03/02 -- San Fransisco, CA -- Planet Granite Friction Series 
 

03/02 -- Carbondale, CO -- Western Slope Bouldering Series 5 970-476-7960
 

03/03 -- Menomonie, WI -- Stout Adventures ROCKFEST! 
 

03/03 -- Moscow, ID -- Univ. of Idaho NW Collegiate Climbing Comp. 208-885-6810

3/3 - 3/4 -- El Paso, Texas -- 
Hueco Rock Rodeo


3/3 -- Moscow, ID -- University of Idaho NW Collegiate Climbing Comp. 208-885-6810

03/10 -- Charleston, SC -- Palmetto Pump


03/24 -- College Station, TX -- Texas Aggie Pumpfest  

03/31 -- Oklahoma City, OK -- Rocktown Climbing Gym USA Climbing Comp

3/30 -- 4/1 -- Red Rock Canyon, NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

03/31 -- Columbus, OH -- Ohio State University Vertical Mile Challenge  


MT. BAKER
SNOWSHOE HIKES - Make reservations the Wednesday prior to the scheduled program by calling Glacier Public Service Center, 360-599-2714 weekends, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. or Mt. Baker Ranger District Office, 360-856-5700 ext. 515 weekdays, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. To offset the costs of the program a donation of $10 per person is suggested for all programs payable by cash or check made out to Discover Your Northwest Interpretive Association.

Heather Meadows 90-Minute Walk
Feb. 4, 18, 19, 25, 11 a.m.
Meet at upper Mt. Baker Ski Area parking lot by the Bagley Lakes Trailhead.
Learn about area history, winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size 15

Snowshoe Hannegan Road Feb. 11, 11 a.m.
Meet at the Shuksan Picnic Area at the base of the Hannegan Road, milepost 46.5 off the Mt. Baker Highway, SR 542.
Learn about area history, winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size: 15 

STEVENS PASS
SNOWSHOE HIKES
Make reservations Jan. 8-Feb. 26 at Skykomish Ranger District, 360-677-2414. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled. Sultan Shuttle offers transportation from Sultan to the resort. Check http://www.stevenspass.com/Stevens/the-mountain/sultan-shuttle.aspx  for fees and schedules. 

Introductory Snowshoeing
Sat. Sun. 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Learn about the history of the area, the winter ecosystem and wildlife on this beginning walk.
Group size: 20

SNOQUALMIE PASS
CROSS-COUNTRY SKI
No reservations are necessary. Participants must have intermediate ski skills. Meet at Grand Junction on the Nordic ski trail out of Summit East Ski area at 10:30 a.m. The program is free, but participants will need a ski area trail pass to access Grand Junction. For more information call 425-434-6111 or 425-434-7669.

Interpretive Tour
Sun. 10:30 a.m.
Learn about the history of the area, the winter ecosystem and wildlife.

SNOWSHOE HIKES
The 90-minute walk and extended snowshoe trips run Jan. 8-March 31, the winter photography and ecology outings Jan. 21-March 31 and the “Kids in the Snow” program Feb. 4-March 31. Make reservations at 425-434-6111. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled. Meet 15 minutes early at the visitor’s center off I-90, exit 52 on Snoqualmie Pass.

Interpretive 90-Minute Walk
Sat. Sun. 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m.
Learn about winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size 20

Extended Half-Day Hikes
Fri. Sat. Sun. 9:30 a.m.
Experience Commonwealth Basin in the winter surrounded by the Cascade crest peaks.
Group size 10

Winter Photography & Ecology Outings
Jan. 21, Feb. 4, 18, March 3, 17, 31, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Capture winter nature on film while learning about ecology.
Group size 6

"Kids in the Snow"
Feb. 4-March 31, Sat. 1 p.m.
Earn a Junior Ranger Snow badge! Learn about tracking, crawl into a snow cave and check out a snow crystal with a magnifier.
Group size 20

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Well, here's something you don't see every day...



This next clip is a trailer for a film documenting an attempt on one of the few remaining unclimbed peaks in the 50 highest peaks of the world.



These Norwegian ladies know how to get after it!



Sacre bleu! These French guys are having an awesome time on some sweet looking ice!

Friday, February 17, 2012

How to Sharpen and Maintain Your Ice Screws

Ice screws are expensive and they get damaged easily.  Petzl has put together this absolutely great video on how to sharpen your screws. Beware though, these techniques take some minor skills with tools...



--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Red Rock Rendezvous - 2012!

March 30-April 1st, 2012

The American Alpine Institute will be a primary sponsor of the 9th Annual Red Rock Rendezvous in Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas.  This will be the seventh time that our guides will be involved, teaching clinics and partying alongside everyone else at the event.

This year our guides will be running multi-pitch climbing trips and beginner climbing days on the 30th.  And they will be teaching a variety of programs on the proceeding days.

If you have never attended a Red Rock Rendezvous before, you are missing out.  This is considered by many to be the best climbing event of the year.  Everybody meets in the desert for three days of climbing instruction, clinics, food, and fun.  It's a great place to rub elbows with the biggest names in climbing.  But it is also a great place to just sit back and soak up climbing culture.

Every year the event just gets better and I have to say that last year's was the most fun so far.  Here is a blog with a number of photos and videos from the 2011 Red Rock Rendezous.

Major climbing athletes make their way out to the Mojave Desert for the Rendezvous every year.  Big names at the event include the likes of Beth Rodden, Peter Croft, Katie Brown, and Andreas Marin. But some of our best guides will also be on hand.  These include people like Mike Powers, Paul Ivaska, Kurt Hicks, Angela Seidling, Alasdair Turner, Ben Traxler, Ian McEleney, Mike Pond, Tom Kirby, Mary Harlan, David Farkas, Chad Cochran, Andrew Yasso, Ben Gardner, Dustin Byrne, Doug Foust, Lyle Haugsven, and Cliff Palmer.

AAI Guides at Red Rock Rendezvous

If you're already visiting Red Rock Rendezvous, don't forget that there is  a lot going on in Las Vegas in late March and early April. The American Alpine Institute is running a SALE on all courses and guided climbs the week before and the week after Red Rock Rendezvous.  

SALE
Get up to 15% off on programs and guided climbs!
Call for Details

Following is a quick breakdown of everything that is happening:
In addition to all of the courses going on around Red Rock Rendezvous, don't forget that AAI will have all of our best guides available for private guiding and instruction in Red Rock Canyon. To learn more, send us an email at info@aai.cc or give us a call at 360-671-1505.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 13, 2012

Climbing the Ames Ice Hose

The Ames Ice Hose: A Colorado classic! 

The Ice Hose is 500 feet of steep ice climbing, right near Telluride, and only an hour's drive from Ouray. Two of my friends and I climbed the Ice Hose the other day, and had a blast. It hosts three long pitches of pure ice climbing, though sometimes the first pitch is mixed - it depends on the time of season. Here are some pictures that we took along the way... 

The stunning Ames Ice Hose.



Matt, fueling up for the big day - two pieces of homemade toast with eggs, cheese, bacon and beans. Power fuel!


Once again, getting psyched. This time with mere tea. Apparently, it was that easy to get excited.

Approaching the Ice Hose. The approach itself is about 45 minutes along a well-trodden path. This picture is the final push of the approach, a steep gully that climbs a few hundred feet to the climb. At least it's a fun slide down on the way home!

My roommate Matt (an AMTL 1, 2, and 3 graduate) and one of my favorite climbing partners finishing up the first pitch as I belay him up.

Matty starting to lead pitch two. This is the classic "ice hose" pitch:  nearly sixty meters of climbing up a chimney in the rock. The ice flow forms in the chimney, and creates a brilliant pitch of climbing.

After the crux of pitch 2, running it to the top.

Ethan (a Ouray local and really nice guy) starting up the third pitch. This is the business, people! The WI4+ Mega Pitch! It's a full 60 meters of WI 4+ ice - a nice fat, blue flow. The ice was incredible today - a lot of new, plastic ice, what we endearingly refer to as "hero ice." Today's hero = Ethan. Thanks for putting the rope up, buddy! (photo credit:  Matt Van Biene)

Well, that was the day in a nutshell. It is a great climb in a beautiful location. And, there's a bit of history here, too...

The Ames Station (next to the climbers' parking lot) is the location of the "World's first generating station to produce and transmit alternating current."

--Mike Pond, Instructor and Guide

Sunday, February 12, 2012


February and March The Forest Service in Western Washington is offering Snowshoe Hikes and Cross Country Ski Tours for all ages. Scroll down to  find one in your area and make your arrangements. 


2/11 -- Bellingham, WA -- NC3 Climbing Comp at WWU

2/10 - 2/11 -- Busteni, Romania -- Ice Climbing World Cup

2/16 -- Las Vegas, Nevada -- Save Red Rock Meeting at REI

2/16 -- Red Rock Canyon, Nevada -- Transportation Planning Open House

2/17 -- 2/20 -- Cody, WY -- Waterfall Ice Festival

02/25 -- Valhalla, NY -- Feats of Strength - Indoor Bouldering Competition 


02/28 -- Lexington, KY -- University of Kentucky Climbing Comp 

03/02 -- San Fransisco, CA -- Planet Granite Friction Series 
 

03/02 -- Carbondale, CO -- Western Slope Bouldering Series 5 970-476-7960
 

03/03 -- Menomonie, WI -- Stout Adventures ROCKFEST! 
 

03/03 -- Moscow, ID -- Univ. of Idaho NW Collegiate Climbing Comp. 208-885-6810

3/3 - 3/4 -- El Paso, Texas -- 
Hueco Rock Rodeo


3/3 -- Moscow, ID -- University of Idaho NW Collegiate Climbing Comp. 208-885-6810

03/10 -- Charleston, SC -- Palmetto Pump


03/24 -- College Station, TX -- Texas Aggie Pumpfest  

03/31 -- Oklahoma City, OK -- Rocktown Climbing Gym USA Climbing Comp

3/30 -- 4/1 -- Red Rock Canyon, NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

03/31 -- Columbus, OH -- Ohio State University Vertical Mile Challenge  


MT. BAKER
SNOWSHOE HIKES - Make reservations the Wednesday prior to the scheduled program by calling Glacier Public Service Center, 360-599-2714 weekends, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. or Mt. Baker Ranger District Office, 360-856-5700 ext. 515 weekdays, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. To offset the costs of the program a donation of $10 per person is suggested for all programs payable by cash or check made out to Discover Your Northwest Interpretive Association.

Heather Meadows 90-Minute Walk
Feb. 4, 18, 19, 25, 11 a.m.
Meet at upper Mt. Baker Ski Area parking lot by the Bagley Lakes Trailhead.
Learn about area history, winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size 15

Snowshoe Hannegan Road Feb. 11, 11 a.m.
Meet at the Shuksan Picnic Area at the base of the Hannegan Road, milepost 46.5 off the Mt. Baker Highway, SR 542.
Learn about area history, winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size: 15 

STEVENS PASS
SNOWSHOE HIKES
Make reservations Jan. 8-Feb. 26 at Skykomish Ranger District, 360-677-2414. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled. Sultan Shuttle offers transportation from Sultan to the resort. Check http://www.stevenspass.com/Stevens/the-mountain/sultan-shuttle.aspx  for fees and schedules. 

Introductory Snowshoeing
Sat. Sun. 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Learn about the history of the area, the winter ecosystem and wildlife on this beginning walk.
Group size: 20

SNOQUALMIE PASS
CROSS-COUNTRY SKI
No reservations are necessary. Participants must have intermediate ski skills. Meet at Grand Junction on the Nordic ski trail out of Summit East Ski area at 10:30 a.m. The program is free, but participants will need a ski area trail pass to access Grand Junction. For more information call 425-434-6111 or 425-434-7669.

Interpretive Tour
Sun. 10:30 a.m.
Learn about the history of the area, the winter ecosystem and wildlife.

SNOWSHOE HIKES
The 90-minute walk and extended snowshoe trips run Jan. 8-March 31, the winter photography and ecology outings Jan. 21-March 31 and the “Kids in the Snow” program Feb. 4-March 31. Make reservations at 425-434-6111. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled. Meet 15 minutes early at the visitor’s center off I-90, exit 52 on Snoqualmie Pass.

Interpretive 90-Minute Walk
Sat. Sun. 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m.
Learn about winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size 20

Extended Half-Day Hikes
Fri. Sat. Sun. 9:30 a.m.
Experience Commonwealth Basin in the winter surrounded by the Cascade crest peaks.
Group size 10

Winter Photography & Ecology Outings
Jan. 21, Feb. 4, 18, March 3, 17, 31, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Capture winter nature on film while learning about ecology.
Group size 6

"Kids in the Snow"
Feb. 4-March 31, Sat. 1 p.m.
Earn a Junior Ranger Snow badge! Learn about tracking, crawl into a snow cave and check out a snow crystal with a magnifier.
Group size 20

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!

This edition of Weekend Warrior is a little different than others. Sometimes we focus on a particular sport, or maybe a specific area. But this time I was inspired by a particular type of athlete: the adaptive athlete.



Blind climber Erik Weihenmayer was part of the first all-blind climbing team, and has also climbed big alpine lines in South America. Here is one of his harder climbs, The Naked Edge in Eldorado.



I've seen quite a few adaptive skiers at Snoqualmie Pass, but nothing quite like this:



You may have seen this last athlete if you attended the Banff Mountain Film Fest or Radical Reels. Josh Dueck broke his back doing a back flip on skis in 2004, but since the incident he has dreamed of being inverted again.



These athletes have overcome so much to get to this point. It is truly an inspiration to watch them overcome these challenges. If you are ready to tackle your own personal alpine challenge, whether they be large as Everest or as small as getting off the ground at the rock gym, give us a call and let us help you along the way.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why Would a Climber Need a Knife?

It's not always super easy to find things to write about in this blog. So I often lurk on different websites looking for topics to write about.  This particular post on rockclimbing.com caught my attention:


I am a new climber-and I've seen many climbers carry knives. Many of them are really attached to them-and consider them their favorite tool. I've met climbers that have stories about their knives and talk about them like a companion. I was thinking I should invest in one-but would love to hear about your experiences or knife stories.

I'm hoping that it will help me with this decision.

This individual must have a strange local ethic.  I've never heard a climber talk about his knife like it was a companion.  No, instead I've heard climbers complain that their "harness knives" aren't sharp enough or to debate whether or not carrying such an item is even appropriate.

So there are two parts to this question.  First, what might a climber need a knife for.  And second, why is there even an argument about whether such a tool is appropriate.


Many of you have read the book or seen the movie, Touching the Void.  In that particular incident, two climbers found themselves caught in a tremendously dangerous situation.  One hung over a cornice, while the other held him on a rope in a precarious stance.  As the stance deteriorated and it appeared that both would die, the climber holding the rope decided to cut it...

Lucky he had a knife!

But this was an incredibly unusual situation.  In over two hundred years of climbing history, this has happened exactly one time.  So this isn't exactly why you need a knife with you.

No, instead you need a knife with you to deal with this:




In the picture above, there are seven or eight slings wrapped around the rappel horn. Most of them are quite bad.  Some are crusty.  Some have been eaten by mice.  And so the best thing to do is to add one more cord, right?

Wrong.

The best thing to do is to add a cord (which you may need a knife to fashion) and then to cut the other tat away (which will also require a knife), so that there is one nice and clean redundant anchor on the horn.  Clearing away the garbage at rappel stations provides great stewardship and it shows that you care about the crags where you climb.

Cutting cords and sling material is a common occurrence on long multi-pitch routes that don't see a lot of traffic.  It is not at all uncommon to have to do some work to beef up anchors or to clean up old materials left years before.  Additionally, a knife could be used to cut away damaged sections of rope, be used in a first aid situation, or even be used to trim materials for a makeshift shelter.  There are a million uses for a knife, especially on long routes...

I alluded to the possibility that there was some controversy about carrying a knife.  That is not at all the case.  Every guide carries a knife.  No, instead the controversy lies in what kind of knife you should carry and  how you should carry it.

It is not uncommon for people to carry cheap "gas station" knives on cords hanging off their harnesses.  Indeed, some people even carry more expensive knives the same way.  The concern is that a knife might open and become dangerous, both from the possibility of getting cut as well as the possibility of it damaging gear.  As such, there are some guide trainers that don't allow guides to carry knives on their harnesses.  They prefer if they were in a pack.
There are a couple of popular harness knives available on the market that theoretically will not open on your harness.  The Trango Piranah Climbing Knife (pictured above) is a very small knife that takes up very little space on your harness.


The Trango Sharktool (pictured above) is a nice hybrid between a nut-tool and a knife.  It is a nice way to eliminate some of the extra baggage of the other knives described here.  In other words, you will only need to have one carabiner for both the knife and your nut-tool.


The Petzl Spatha (pictured above) is a tried and true classic.  I would say that I've seen this particular knife on more peoples harnesses than any of the others listed.

Certainly many climbers carry a multi-tool.  This is especially useful if you are on an expedition or on a big alpine climb.  Some will elect to carry their multi-tool on a harness, but most will stow it in a pack.

So to answer the original question, there are many uses for a knife.  But if you start to see your knife as a companion or a close friend, then you should seriously consider therapy...

Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ouray Ice Conditions


I scream, you scream, we all scream for.... ice climbing! 

So I am the AAI guide here in Ouray, Colorado, what is often lauded as the "epicenter of American ice climbing." While I  don't need to make any overstatements, the place is amazing. Sure, there's the ice park, with over one mile of ice of all shapes and sizes (see recent blog entries from 1/23, and 1/31). But let's talk backcountry ice. Though, every other place in the world "backcountry" ice is simply "ice," but I digress.

Now, there is a ton of ice in and around Ouray, Silverton, Telluride, and the rest of the San Juans (Western Colorado). But within just a few miles of the town of Ouray, there's a host of ice and mixed climbing to be had. The past few weeks, I have been trying to get out to the local crags and get some climbing in. Here's what I've found this week as far as conditions go...

Camp Bird Road: Good. This venue is about two miles from Ouray. All the usual flows on the road proper are in, fat. Skylight is in, but a bit, er, showery. I recommend climbing this classic route in the early morning after cold night. I saw a party coming down in the afternoon, while the Skylight was in full flow. While they looked like they got a clean rinse, they looked a bit soggy and cold. The dry-tooling routes are in, as always, and make for a great workout. I'll post a blog entry next week about mixed climbing and dry-tooling in Ouray. Fun stuff!

While the fat flows by the road are in, The Ribbon, which is across the valley, looks bony for the first pitch. Typically, this climb is fatter early on, and tends to dry up as the season progresses. I climbed it a few years ago in the current condition, and the first pitch was scary!  The hard climbs, like the Racing Stripes and Bird Brain Boulevard look thin. But, Bird Brain is always in, because it's never really in, so it doesn't have to be in to be in. (If that made any sense, you have probably climbed Bird Brain). As far as places to go, this is where it's at for local ice and mixed climbing.

Here's some pictures of the Camp Bird area:

The Skylight. The first pitch is in the foreground. The second pitch (WI 5) is a steep flow inside of a giant chasm. It's steep, but many times, you can stem or chimney across the gap in the rocks, and get a no-hands rest. What a cool climb! (The second pitch was quite wet in the afternoon).

Choppo's Chimney (WI 4/5)


Two fat flows: on the left: Slip, Slide, and Away (WI 3 to 4+)
On the right: Tourist Trap WI5 M6

Local Boys Done Good (M7). A bolted choss pile for dry-tooling. Fortunately, this route is always in condition, as it has absolutely no ice on it.

Silverton: Dangerous. I have not been over this way yet this month due to high avalanche hazard. The San Juans are notorious for dangerous snowpack, and this year is turning out to be no exception. The climbs in the Eureeka area (just outside of Silverton) have big snow bowls above them, and have been getting loaded with recent snowfall. As a result, I have been a bit hesitant to go up there and swing the picks. Too bad, there's a lot of great climbing up there. At least there's a lot to choose from around here!

Skiing: Okay...if you're selective. The recent storms have brought avalanche hazard to the region. In general, Northern aspects are the most hazardous, where Southern aspects are safer. Due South is the best, at or below treeline. That said, there have been numerous natural, human-triggered, and explosive-triggered avalanches recently, and with a new storm this week, conditions are a bit grim to do the big North Face ski descents. Best to stick to mellow terrain, and avoid avalanche runout zones. Here's more info from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Alright, well, that's a brief synopsis of some of the backcountry opportunities in the Ouray area. If you don't believe me, seeing is believing - come on down to Ouray and see for yourself!

--Mike Pond, Instructor and Guide.









Sunday, February 5, 2012

February - March Climbing Events


February and March The Forest Service in Western Washington is offering Snowshoe Hikes and Cross Country Ski Tours for all ages. Scroll down to  find one in your area and make your arrangements. 


2/11 -- Bellingham, WA -- NC3 Climbing Comp at WWU

2/10 - 2/11 -- Busteni, Romania -- Ice Climbing World Cup

2/16 -- Las Vegas, Nevada -- Save Red Rock Meeting at REI

2/16 -- Red Rock Canyon, Nevada -- Transportation Planning Open House

2/17 -- 2/20 -- Cody, WY -- Waterfall Ice Festival

02/25 -- Valhalla, NY -- Feats of Strength - Indoor Bouldering Competition 


02/28 -- Lexington, KY -- University of Kentucky Climbing Comp 

03/02 -- San Fransisco, CA -- Planet Granite Friction Series 
 

03/02 -- Carbondale, CO -- Western Slope Bouldering Series 5 970-476-7960
 

03/03 -- Menomonie, WI -- Stout Adventures ROCKFEST! 
 

03/03 -- Moscow, ID -- Univ. of Idaho NW Collegiate Climbing Comp. 208-885-6810

3/3 - 3/4 -- El Paso, Texas -- 
Hueco Rock Rodeo


3/3 -- Moscow, ID -- University of Idaho NW Collegiate Climbing Comp. 208-885-6810

03/10 -- Charleston, SC -- Palmetto Pump


03/24 -- College Station, TX -- Texas Aggie Pumpfest  

03/31 -- Oklahoma City, OK -- Rocktown Climbing Gym USA Climbing Comp

3/30 -- 4/1 -- Red Rock Canyon, NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

03/31 -- Columbus, OH -- Ohio State University Vertical Mile Challenge  


MT. BAKER
SNOWSHOE HIKES - Make reservations the Wednesday prior to the scheduled program by calling Glacier Public Service Center, 360-599-2714 weekends, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. or Mt. Baker Ranger District Office, 360-856-5700 ext. 515 weekdays, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. To offset the costs of the program a donation of $10 per person is suggested for all programs payable by cash or check made out to Discover Your Northwest Interpretive Association.

Heather Meadows 90-Minute Walk
Feb. 4, 18, 19, 25, 11 a.m.
Meet at upper Mt. Baker Ski Area parking lot by the Bagley Lakes Trailhead.
Learn about area history, winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size 15

Snowshoe Hannegan Road Feb. 11, 11 a.m.
Meet at the Shuksan Picnic Area at the base of the Hannegan Road, milepost 46.5 off the Mt. Baker Highway, SR 542.
Learn about area history, winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size: 15 

STEVENS PASS
SNOWSHOE HIKES
Make reservations Jan. 8-Feb. 26 at Skykomish Ranger District, 360-677-2414. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled. Sultan Shuttle offers transportation from Sultan to the resort. Check http://www.stevenspass.com/Stevens/the-mountain/sultan-shuttle.aspx  for fees and schedules. 

Introductory Snowshoeing
Sat. Sun. 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Learn about the history of the area, the winter ecosystem and wildlife on this beginning walk.
Group size: 20

SNOQUALMIE PASS
CROSS-COUNTRY SKI
No reservations are necessary. Participants must have intermediate ski skills. Meet at Grand Junction on the Nordic ski trail out of Summit East Ski area at 10:30 a.m. The program is free, but participants will need a ski area trail pass to access Grand Junction. For more information call 425-434-6111 or 425-434-7669.

Interpretive Tour
Sun. 10:30 a.m.
Learn about the history of the area, the winter ecosystem and wildlife.

SNOWSHOE HIKES
The 90-minute walk and extended snowshoe trips run Jan. 8-March 31, the winter photography and ecology outings Jan. 21-March 31 and the “Kids in the Snow” program Feb. 4-March 31. Make reservations at 425-434-6111. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled. Meet 15 minutes early at the visitor’s center off I-90, exit 52 on Snoqualmie Pass.

Interpretive 90-Minute Walk
Sat. Sun. 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m.
Learn about winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size 20

Extended Half-Day Hikes
Fri. Sat. Sun. 9:30 a.m.
Experience Commonwealth Basin in the winter surrounded by the Cascade crest peaks.
Group size 10

Winter Photography & Ecology Outings
Jan. 21, Feb. 4, 18, March 3, 17, 31, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Capture winter nature on film while learning about ecology.
Group size 6

"Kids in the Snow"
Feb. 4-March 31, Sat. 1 p.m.
Earn a Junior Ranger Snow badge! Learn about tracking, crawl into a snow cave and check out a snow crystal with a magnifier.
Group size 20